1895 – Catalog of Fine Textile Samples for Religious Liturgical Vestments

Fine Textile Samples
For Religious Liturgical Vestments
Bishops and Priests
Premium Chinese Silk
French Canevas – English Velour

France, circa 1895-1920. Generous catalogs containing textile samples of innumerable designs, textures, and colours, all of superior quality, and selected exclusively for producing and tailoring liturgical vestments, centered largely on the chasuble, the galloon and woven medallions for ornamentation, with some descriptions and captions in French. Two volumes: 4to. large catalog in continental green marbled boards with a unique two spring-post binding, containing 533 fabric swatches of varying sizes, mounted to 41 cardstock leafs with red borders, each leaf with a typescript caption in French revealing either designated usage, fabric type, detailed description and/or label number. Volume measures approximately 25 x 28 x 7 cm. 8vo. oblong green cloth album with two-post binding measuring 28 x 20 x 3 cm, containing 40 large fabric swatches, each numbered with a manuscript label, each cut with zigzag edges and measuring approximately 22 x 17 cm. Contained together in a large purpose-made clamshell box for extra protection. Very good condition, a rare and tangible legacy of ecclesiastical textiles.

A liturgical movement began in nineteenth century France, as a movement of scholarship for the reform of worship within the Roman Catholic Church. It has developed over the last century and a half and has affected many other Christian Churches. It continues pressing forward with the re-examination of that which lies beneath the rites, ceremonies and outward trappings of worship. Vestments are the liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran religions, those that practice ritualized Christian-based public worship and ceremony.

Nothing less than the finest for the clergy of the Catholic church and other Christian churches whose garments and accessories for Mass were replete with symbolism – the textiles in the present volumes were sourced from manufacturers of highest repute in France, England, and China.

Presenting symbolic solid colours as well as richly textured woven and braided designs, religious motifs incorporate the Jerusalem cross, the Maltese cross, the doves of peace, the communion cup, wheat for the sacramental bread, the Christograms IHS and Chi Rho, the Greek letters for Alpha and Omega, and the crucifixion of Jesus. While numerous samples are designated for the making of the chasuble and its trim, a few swatches have been selected for a unique purpose, including four black and white trim designs for mortuary vestments, bold trim for tapestries and other ornamentations of the church. Several exquisite gilded medallions are also styled for adornment.

Pure black textiles were near impossible to make until the invention of synthetic dyes in the late 19th century, therefore “black” vestments of the Middle Ages had a hue more of navy blue or violet. Black was preferred for Advent, Lent, Requiem (a Mass for the souls of the dead). It is interesting to note that there are only four black samples for this type of Mass, offered in the present volume.

A few labels identify silk imported from China, some of these being “premium silk,” with silk made in France. One leaf in particular juxtaposes some bright red échillons of “canevas” [canvas] to be used for tapestries, supplied by two leading French textiles manufacturers – D.M.C. of Mulhouse and Neyret Frères & Cie. of St Etienne. It stands to reason that other samples are from the distinguished French firms though not specifically labelled. The English seem to be favoured for their velour. Some vibrantly coloured offerings of thick ribbon from the Ottoman Empire are laveled as “très nouveau – coloris modèrne” (a very new item in modern colours). Also offered in the catalogue are jacquards, brocades, satins, and rayons.

The inclusion of rayon, though very little of it, suggests that these volumes were not made before 1891. The intricate and colourful patterns reminiscent of church stain-glass windows, suggest that the producer – possibly Chardonnet himself – was skilled in working with it, therefore the volumes were most likely not compiled before 1895.

[Count Hilaire de Chardonnet (1839-1924) obtained the first patent for the process of manufacturing rayon in 1884, and at the Paris Exposition of 1889 he showed rayon products to the public for the first time. Shortly thereafter, he opened the world’s first “artificial silk” factory at Besancon in northern France, which he called “Société de la Soie de Chardonnet” which in 1891 began to produce the world’s first commercially made synthetic fibre, sometimes called Chardonnet silk to distinguish it from other forms of rayon. The modern rayon industry developed from Chardonnet’s silk-making process.]

All of the samples are labeled at least with an inventory number; the most detailed of these labels sometimes describe how the fine quality was achieved during manufacturing, and sometimes further highlights features such as colour retention or stain resistance when laundered in soap or even bleach.

“Art and religion belong together by certain profound identities of Origin, Subject Matter, and Inner Experience,” wrote the Unitarian minister Von Ogden Vogt in 1960.

Another contemporary author discussed “the importance of harmony between the textiles used and the church in which they are used… Contemporary styles can be made to harmonize with a Gothic cathedral…”

The following garments or accouterments are named here as the distinct application proposed for specific textiles and designs:

Chasuble – the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist

[In the 20th century, there began to be a return to an earlier, more ample form of the chasuble, sometimes called “Gothic”, as distinguished from the “Roman” scapular form. This aroused some opposition, as a result of which the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued on 9 December 1925 a decree against it. The latter was revoked on 20 August 1957, leaving the matter to the prudent judgement of local Ordinaries. There exists a photograph of Pope Pius XI wearing the more ample chasuble while celebrating Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in March 1930 during the period in which they were forbidden.]

Aube [Alb] – an ample white garment flowing down to the ankles and usually girdled with a cincture (a type of belt, sometimes of rope similar to the type used with monk garments). It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the Romans

Galon [Galloon/Trim] – a decorative woven trim sometimes in the form of a braid and commonly made of metallic gold or silver thread, lace, or embroidery, in this application used to compliment the two aforementioned ecclesiastical garments

Galon pour drap mortuaire [Trim for mortuary drapery] – a decorative black and white woven trim used on the drapery that covers a coffin, as well as the priest’s garments during a Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead.

The vestments worn by the priest at Mass are as follows: the alb, the cincture, the stole, and the chasuble; and at certain other services he may use the cope, the humeral veil and the surplice. Each of these has its own history and its own symbolical meaning. The Church ordinarily permits the use of four colors in the sacred vestments: white, red, green, [and] violet. Gold may be used as a substitute for white, red or green. Each of these colors represents something unique and significant, be it purity, the blood of the lamb, martyrdom, penance, hope, Lent, Advent, and so on. It is quite remarkable however, that in the liturgical designs of the present volume, colours offered deviate rather liberally from the traditional four colours, with teals, coppers, and such.

Dollfus-Mieg and Company (DMC) is an Alsatian textile company founded in Mulhouse in 1746 by Jean-Henri Dollfus. During the twentieth century, it was one of the largest textile and industrial groups in all of Europe. Together with Samuel Koechlin and Jean Jacques Schmalzer, Dollfus created the first painted canvas factory in Mulhouse, and in 1758, founded a separate firm called Koechlin, Dollfus & Cie. The three partners are considered as the founding fathers of the Mulhouse industry. Daniel Dollfus, a nephew of Jean-Henri Dollfus, renamed the company “Dollfus-Mieg et Compagnie” on March 21, 1800, after marrying his wife Anne-Marie Mieg. Listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1922, the firm merged with the Lille company Thiriez and Cartier-Bresson in 1961.

Neyret Frères & Cie., which was known for their high fashion textiles, and which still operates today, began as a small company in St Etienne created in 1825 by M. Antoine Bizaillon to make woven ribbons. As he only had young children, when he retired he sold his company to his nephew, Jean-Baptiste Neyret (1825-1889), who was working with him. At that time, there was much competition in St Etienne. Within a few years Neyret had the vision to move from the volatile industry of ladies’ fashion, to produce specialty textiles and ribbons for official uses. He also produced trademark images for manufacturers [logos] to display on their clothes, etc. Jean-Baptiste Neyret earned great wealth from his enterprise, and in 1860 began to invest in other industrial activities as well. When Jean Baptiste retired, it was Joseph Neyret (1858-1944) who took over operations.



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